You know what we haven’t been talking about enough lately? How well the automotive industry in this country is doing.
Since the massive auto industry crisis of 2008, it seems most of what’s been said about the American auto industry has included criticism and pessimism. A negative perception of American car companies, in general, seems to have developed as a direct result of the auto industry crisis.
To be fair, the whole bailout period sucked, for everyone. Car companies had to make huge job cuts, plant closings and kill off entire car brands. Tax payers were angry that American car companies General Motors and Chrysler received government bailouts, rather than being left to go out of business. The companies themselves weren’t too thrilled about having to be bailed out, either.
So, were government bailouts of American companies during the crisis a bad idea? Some 54 percent of the American population at the time of the bailouts seemed to think so. But have these companies wasted opportunities or taken advantage of the bailouts since? No way.
In fact, according to an April 2010 MSNBC article, GM paid back what it owed in government loans from the U.S. and Canada, with interest, almost three years ago, which at the time was five years ahead of schedule. The rest of the loans were transferred into ownership of GM shares, and GM has bought back those shares as late as December 2012. The government’s stake in the company has already dropped to 19 percent from a previous 61 percent, where it was those three-ish years ago. And, according to a MSNBC article from last week, the government just hired financial giants JPMorgan Securities and Citigroup Global Markets to sell off its remaining stake in General Motors.
In other words, the little part of the government’s fingers that was still in the GM pie will soon be removed.
And yet, people still refer to GM as “Obama Motors” or “Government Motors,” as if the government has the same authority over the company it did following the recession. How can 19 percent of shares be considered ownership, or even a serious influence?
People tend to forget that automakers around the world had to reorganize during the worst years of this recession, not just American ones. It’s disappointing to confront negative stereotypes about American contenders in the auto industry so frequently.
“Wait, you drive a Chevy? Doesn’t GM make that? I heard GM is bad!”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had such a conversation. What’s worse is when I hear the misguided idea that buying any automobile with a Toyota badge on it somehow guarantees a flawlessly safe, economical and value-sustaining car. Or, that buying German somehow means a totally problem-free and perfect vehicle. In reality, neither idea is necessarily true.
It’s sentiments like these – ones that suggest, in comparison to their foreign competition, that American car companies are somehow illegitimate or under-qualified – that, when perpetuated, keep the uninformed, non-enthusiast car buyers from ever considering buying American. That’s a darn shame, too, because American car companies have been producing some extraordinary cars in the last decade; cars that wholly outperform their foreign competitors at a fraction of the price.
Since many of us are nearing our post-college car-buying days, I think it’s time we open up our eyes and realize that, contrary to outdated stereotypes, you don’t have to look further than this country’s automakers to find some of the very best cars in the business.